NEW YORK (AP) — An off-duty federal law enforcement agent responding to an armed robbery at a pharmacy on Long Island was fatally shot along with the heist suspect, who had taken money and painkillers from the store before he was killed Saturday.
The off-duty Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent died after being taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound, Nassau County police Lt. Kevin Smith said.
The ATF identified the fallen agent as 51-year-old John Capano, a 23-year veteran of the agency, who lived in Massapequa and was married with two children.
Rory O'Connor, assistant special agent in charge in the ATF's New York office, said Capano was a customer at the pharmacy when he chose to intervene in the robbery and apprehend the suspect. "During the course of the struggle, John was shot," O'Connor said.
He described Capano as a "very dedicated, aggressive agent" who, as a trained explosives expert, taught U.S. military and local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq how to do blast investigations.
"He was a veteran agent who did his job well," O'Connor said. "Even though off-duty, he felt the need to take action in an attempt to protect the public from a known robber."
Nassau County police said the unidentified man entered the pharmacy in Seaford and announced an armed robbery about 2 p.m., looking for painkillers and money. Police said that as the man was leaving the store, he was confronted by three individuals — the ATF agent, an off-duty city police officer and a retired Nassau County police officer.
Shots rang out, and the suspect was struck, the painkillers and cash dropping to the ground, Smith said. The ATF agent also was wounded.
Smith said it was not immediately clear who shot the ATF agent, or how or why the off-duty officer and retired officer arrived at the location at about the same time.
Police declined to say what kind of weapon the robbery suspect was carrying.
The ATF agent was taken to Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, where he died. The NYPD officer and retired police officer also were taken to the hospital to be treated for trauma.
Police closed off the sidewalk with tape and covered the body with a white sheet while they investigated, said Razov Felice, owner of an Italian restaurant located down the street. Felice said the area has been struggling with a growing tide of prescription drug abuse.
"There is a lot of problem in Long Island with these drugs," Felice said. "I don't know what people are thinking. The more people talk about these drugs, the more people are trying them."
The shooting occurred about 30 miles west of another Long Island pharmacy where four people were gunned down by a drug addict during a robbery in June on Father's Day.
Nationwide, armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
There have been a number of incidents in which New York-area police have fired at off-duty officers who were responding to a crime.
In March, an off-duty Metropolitan Transportation Authority police authority officer shot a Nassau County police officer who was in plainclothes and carrying a rifle. Both men were responding to a crime scene in the town of Massapequa Park.
In May, a New York Police Department officer shot and killed an off-duty colleague who was carrying a gun while chasing a suspected car thief in East Harlem.
In 2008, Westchester County police officers killed an off-duty officer from the New York suburb of Mount Vernon, N.Y. as he was intervening in a fight.
Associated Press writers Chris Hawley and David B. Caruso contributed to this report.